April 16, 2007

Temptation is everywhere -- in the media, on the street, even sitting in the cubicle next to you. But is infidelity in America a trend on the rise? The MSNBC.com/iVillage Lust, Love & Loyalty survey, which examined topics ranging from the rules of monogamy to the reasons for straying, revealed that nearly one in four married adults has cheated on their spouse.

That's despite the fact that the majority of women (81 percent) and men (62 percent) agreed that it was never acceptable to cheat. However, the sexes have differing opinions on what constitutes cheating. While most people agree that physical contact, including kissing, is cheating, men and women are split on other types of behaviors. Seventy-seven percent of women consider online sexual talk or Webcamming to be cheating, only 57 percent of men agree. And 73 percent of women label sending flirtatious emails to a co-worker as cheating, compared to 53 percent of men. The most common cheating partners are friends (40 percent), followed by co-workers (35 percent).

"The good news is that most of us fear cheating more than we really need to," said Julia Sommerfeld, senior health editor for msnbc.com. "People overestimate the rate of cheating by nearly double. Perhaps that's because we're deluged with images of cheating at the movies and in celebrity magazines. We think if Reese Witherspoon and Sienna Miller are getting cheated on, who's safe?"

The survey also revealed the more money you have, the more likely you are to cheat -- at least if you're a man. While income level doesn't have much of an impact on whether women stray, survey results show that cheating directly rises along with income for men.

Both men and women surveyed reported that they would be willing to go to extremes to catch a cheating partner. Eighty-three percent would try to trick their partner into confessing, 63 percent would hire a private investigator, and more than half would snoop on e-mail or check phone logs. But if you are being cheated on, chances are you have no idea. Survey respondents said that only about 30 percent of cheaters get caught and even fewer, 13 percent, confess on their own.

The MSNBC.com/iVillage Lust, Love & Loyalty survey results also revealed:

* Lovers have little to do with love. Most cheaters say they do love their committed partner, but they stray for other reasons. Men say it just comes down to wanting more sex (44 percent), while women are more often seeking emotional attention (40 percent). 

* Most affairs are brief. Twenty-nine percent last a week or less; 47 percent end within a month. 

* Cheating brings out a range of emotions. Forty-nine percent of Americans felt guilty; 43 percent felt more attractive; 39 percent regretted their decision; and 32 percent felt stressed. 

* Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Alba topped the list of celebrities who could lead us to stray. Angelina Jolie was the object of desire for one in 10 men and women.

The MSNBC.com/iVillage Lust, Love & Loyalty survey was conducted online in February 2007 and included 70,288 survey respondents, including more than 65,000 msnbc.com readers. To see the complete findings of the survey, please visit www.loyaltyresults.msnbc.com.

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